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Friday, August 5, 2011

The Eagle has landed

OK, so it's not a flight to the moon, but for us, at least, this was something of a giant leap.

It was nearly an uneventful journey.  The only real excitement we had occurred the night before.  Halfway to the restaurant, D. realised the bag containing the bike locks and my handbag was not on the front of his bike where it should have been. It contained all my identification (including my passport), my phone and all my bank/credit cards. Not something you want to loose, ever, but especially not on the eve of an international flight.  Did he leave it on the street outside the hotel, in the lobby, or in our room?  After pedalling the distance between Clerkenwell Green and City Road in record time, he found it safely in the room.  Phew.   I think that was the closest I've ever been to a heart attack.

Thursday dawned wet, and got wetter.  By the time we had loaded up the van with our baggage, it was coming down in sheets.  We spent the inevitable airport waiting time perusing online links to prospective apartments in the Seattle area.  Saw some incredibly slick, modern, high tech, soulless places.  I hope we can find something with a bit of character.  The idea is to live within a few miles of  Google's Fremont office so D. can continue to cycle to work.  But distance as the crow flies is deceptive.  There is quite a lot of vertical relief, which is why so many apartments boast of lake and or mountain views. I wonder how long the 6 speed Bromptons will hold out against the attractions of a gazillion speed hybrid with disc brakes, or even, (gasp) electric assist.

Arriving at Sea-Tac from Heathrow terminal 5 was like travelling backwards in time. One of the security people at baggage reclaim said  it was designed in the 1960s and is in serious need of updating.  We experienced this first hand as a 747's load of luggage quickly overwhelmed the baggage handling system.  Cases were piled four deep, and all but the tallest folks risked getting dragged onto the carousel if they tried to reach for bags at the top.   At one point the baggage chute clogged up entirely and it all ground to a halt.
The shuttle van people asked us what happened to the other two people in our party. I explained they were invisible, but their luggage was all too real. There's a two bag limit per passenger, so for extra bags, you pay for extra seats. I felt as if we were traveling with the Seven Champions' Bert and his twin sister.
As we left the airport the van's radio was played "Big Old Jet Airliner", oddly appropriate to our situation. I felt bad for the driver hoisting all those heavy bags in and out of the van, but he did it with good grace and a ready smile.  So far everyone we've met here has been very friendly.

After dragging our bags upstairs into the temporary apartment (basic, but blissfully quiet), we went out to explore. We're staying in a residential area that is on the fringe of a rather industrial area.  Not the best place for shopping on foot. The landlady gave us directions to the nearest supermarket, and told us there were a couple places to eat around there as well.  Up hill we went, and then down.  I am so glad we have strong legs from cycling!

As soon as we caught site of the local eateries we were overcome with hunger.  The choices were an empty teriyaki place, a pizza joint, an empty Cantonese restaurant and Red Mill Burgers, which was packed with happy diners.  D. really wanted a burger, but I doubted they would have anything for the non-meat eater.  Happily, I was wrong;  not one, but three enticing veggie burgers with all sorts of flavourful trimmings.  Maybe not the healthiest option, but somehow very appropriate on our first night of repatriation. Thus fortified we braved arctic blast of air conditioning in the supermarket (hard to tell the difference between the chiller cabinets and the ambient air temperature).   We had to pick up at least enough supplies for breakfast along with some basics like toilet paper and soap while not weighing ourselves down too much because it was all uphill from there. The combination of exhaustion (we'd been up for nearly 23 hours by then), and the confusion of a large, unknown supermarket undergoing refurbishment made for a surreal shopping experience. After climbing back up the hill and unpacking the perishables, we collapsed in a heap at 9:30 pm. This, of course, is counterbalanced with being wide awake at 4:30 am, but we'll get over that soon enough.

A new day, a new city, and (eventually) new phone numbers await as soon as places open for business!

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